Toddlerhood is a time of mastering new skills and developing independence. But, along with these skills and new- found independence comes frustration and temper tantrums. Understanding typical toddler behavior may relieve stress and help parents boost their toddler toward independence.
Understanding Typical Toddler Behaviors:
Crying when a parent leaves the room. Separation anxiety is a sign that your child understands that he is his own person separate from you. Because of the way a toddler’s brain functions, he believes that when you leave, you might not come back. Here are some strategies to make separations easier:
- Play “out-of-sight “ games such as peek-a-boo. Let your child watch as you disappear around a corner and reappear.
- Prepare your child for the separation by telling him that you are leaving and assuring him that you will return.
- Resist the temptation to “sneak out”. Sneaking out without letting your child know may result in a lack of trust in you.
- Encourage relationships between your child and other adults such as
grandparents and family friends. This reminds him that when you are separated, there are other people who will take care of him.
Saying “NO!” When a toddler says, ”No!” he is signaling he understands he is an individual with his own wants and needs. Here are some things that you can do to experience “no” less often:
- Give simple choices instead of telling your toddler to clean his room, ask, “Would you like to pick up your blocks or your books first?”
- When giving choices, ask questions that have options rather than simple “yes” or “no” answers.
Saying “Me do it!” Your toddler wants to do things on his own. He will get frustrated if you try to take over. Often this will lead to a temper tantrum. He is not trying to be disrespectful; he is attempting to assert himself as an individual.
What to do to avoid some frustrations:
- Resist the temptation to do things for your toddler in order to save time.
- Allow a little extra time for getting dressed.
- When frustration arises, gently offer helpful suggestions such as, “Try sitting down to put on your pants.”
- Place toy shelves close to the ground for easy access and easy clean up.
- Use child-size utensils to aid in self feeding.
- Offer child-size tools to help in chores.
Demanding to make his own decisions. Making his own choices gives your toddler a feeling of confidence and true independence.
Some simple choices that you can allow your toddler to make could include:
- Would you like to wear the red outfit or the blue one?
- Do you want eggs or cereal for breakfast?
- Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?
Helpful Tips for Encouraging Independence
- Create a safe environment to explore. “Toddler proof” your home.
Put tempting breakables out of reach, cover electrical sockets, and utilize baby gates for spaces that are off limits.
- Set simple, age appropriate limits and consistently enforce them.
- Provide books and toys that build independence.
- Avoid power struggles.
- Keep a sense of humor and be flexible.
- How you say it is key! Say, “I like it when you…,” rather than “Don’t …” Your toddler will likely be less resistive!
- Praise your child’s independence.
Utilizing these helpful hints and understanding typical toddler behaviors will allow you to help your toddler ease into independence and grow into his own person.